Cry, the Beloved Country

aspets of urban migration as dipicted in the novel 'Cry, the beloved country'

urban migration

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The plot of Cry, the Beloved Country largely concerns the efforts of Stephen Kumalo to reunite his family by bringing back his sister Gertrude and his son Absalom to Ixopo. However, this theme takes on larger dimensions when one considers it in reference to the events that develop throughout the novel. A major theme that Paton develops is that family life in South Africa is broken; he illustrates this primarily through the Kumalo family itself, but then enlarges it to encompass family life in South Africa in general. The novel contains numerous instances in which families are broken apart by migration to Johannesburg, such as the family of Sibeko, and the cumulative effect of this, as Kumalo realizes, is that villages such as Ixopo and the nation of South Africa in general is one of families that need to be reunited. The shift of the plot during the third segment of the novel from reuniting the family in South Africa to reuniting village life in Ndotsheni reflects this theme and enlarges it. Furthermore, Paton shows the theme of reuniting family and nation through the writings of Arthur Jarvis concerning a South African national identity. A major reason that Arthur Jarvis worked for social justice, according to his works, is to unite the nation as one cohesive whole, instead of a nation of various disparate ethnic groups.

Alan Paton uses the conflict between urban and rural society and the various qualities they represent as a major theme of the novel. For Paton, rural life is best exemplified by Stephen Kumalo and his personality, while urban life is best exemplified by John Kumalo. Paton clearly places his sympathy on the qualities of rural life: rural society comes to represent family, religion, morality and stability, while the chaotic urban life that Paton describes represents the breaking up of families, hedonism, and atheism. Paton also illustrates this theme through the development of several characters in the novel: the literal move of characters such as the pregnant girl to rural life in Ndotsheni represents a change to a greater moral sense, while the most corrupt character in the novel, John Kumalo, is fully enmeshed in urban Johannesburg society.